Gambia Oil Palm Plantation – a headache for PC Badara Sheriff
The Gambia Oil Palm Plantation in the Jong and Sogbini Chiefdoms in Bonthe District is one of the largest oil palm plantations Sierra Leone, if not the largest, in the West Africa sub-region.
Instead of being a blessing for the people of Jong and Sogbini and Bonthe District as a whole, the plantation appears to be a curse in disguise for the people. This plantation has been the main source of almost all the troubles in the two chiefdoms and the district.
There have been several reports of bloody confrontations in the plantation as there has always been fierce controversy over the control of the plantation, a situation that has become a serious headache for especially the Paramount Chief of Jong, Alie Badara Sheriff the second.
PC Badara Sheriff himself has admitted to me that he spends sleepless nights trying to settle quarrels and bloody battles related to the plantation.
At a point, government took over the plantation for some years through the failed Capacity Building Project of the Malaysians. A fabulous sum of 12 million US Dollars was reportedly pumped into the project which later collapsed woefully. This prompted the plantation owners to convene a meeting under the Mattru court house where they decided to take away their plantations from government and hand them over to a foreign investor called Luke Mariot of the Gold Tree Company.
The aftermath of the land owners’ decision was unpleasant as government flagged the plantation until further notice, a situation which gave the local residents more opportunity to continue stealing the palm fruits at random.
Subsequently, PC Sheriff was invited to Freetown by the government to sign a certain agreement that he never signed on the excuse that he had to first consult and seek the consent of his people. “I will never enter into any agreement with government or whosoever in relation to the plantation without the consultation and consent of the people who elected me and who are supposed to be the primary beneficiaries of the plantation,” PC Sheriff told me in an interview.
Badara Sheriff expressed regret that government has never rendered any major help to his people who own the plantation, saying that is what pains him more than anything else.
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